Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 1999
Dogs Sterilised to Save Ethiopia's Rare Wolf
Geographical, 71/9, September 1999
Dogs in Ethiopia's Bale Mountain National Park are to be sterilised to help preserve the world's most endangered canid, the Ethiopian wolf. Since 1990 the spread of rabies has halved the wolf population in this region and fewer than 500 are left today. Cross-breeding between dogs and wolves is now producing hybrid offspring, further endangering this already rare species.
British vet Guy Dutson is leading a three-month intensive birth-control programme and has trained several local vets to help him complete this work. Twenty five bitches and 142 dogs have so far been sterilised. The project aims to reduce interaction and disease transmission between dogs and wolves, as well as helping to limit the number of unwanted puppies. The World Society for the Protection of Animals is funding the project.
The Wolves Are Coming! The Wolves Are Coming!
David Dobbs, Audubon, 101/5, September 1999
As word spread last spring that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was considering a plan to restore the gray wolf to New England and New York, the region growled with talk about big predators. John Harrigan -- a newspaper publisher, farmer, and hunter in New Hampshire -- lampooned the more virulent responses: "Wolves and cougars. They take children from school bus stops. I won't be safe in the woods without a steel jockstrap. So I'm agin 'em." One New Hampshire legislator persuaded his colleages and Governor Jeanne Shaheen to preemptively ban the release of wolves. Governor Angus King of Maine rescinded a Wolf Awareness Week proclamation.
Having recovered from 19th-century clearcuts, the 26-million-acre Northern Forest of New England and upstate New York is home once again to increasing numbers of deer, beavers, moose, and hares. Thousands of their predators, such as bobcats, fishers, and coyotes, have also returned. There now appears to be enough room and prey for the wolves, cougars, and lynx that topped the food chain 300 years ago. Recent studies indicate that upstate New York could support as many as 300 wolves, and northern New England another 1,000. Some 50 to 200 lynx already inhabit Maine, and many citizens think that wolves and cougars could live there as well. Two wolves have been shot in Maine, one in 1993 and another in 1995. In addition, scientists confirmed the 1994 sighting of a female cougar and two kittens in Vermont and the 1997 discovery of cougar hair and scat in Massachusetts.
But it's not certain how soon new animals will join these individuals to form viable populations. The nearest population of cougars lives in Manitoba, 1,500 miles from New York, and the closest significant wolf population is separated from Maine by the 75-mile-wide -- and relatively developed -- St. Lawrence River valley. Scientists believe that wolves might take at least two to five decades to recolonize naturally, and cougars even longer. "I think the advocates jumped the gun a bit, talking reintroduction without doing a lot of public education first," Harrigan says. "But the reaction was a good wake-up call. If we want to see these animals return, we've got a lot of work to do." Despite the controversy, the Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to begin work on a wolf recovery plan this fall.
Conservationists, Legal Experts in Court to Defend Yellowstone Wolves
US Newswire, 30 July 1999
(Denver) -- Conservationists brought a wolf to the doorstep of the federal appeals court here today as judges heard oral arguments in a battle over whether wolves reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park four years ago must be removed.
Brian O'Neill, representing Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation and its Wyoming and Idaho affiliates, and the National Audubon Society argued the case, stating that the successful reintroduction is legal, legitimate and necesary.
Rami, an ambassador wolf from Mission: Wolf, courted reporters on the courthouse steps following the argument. The groups also presented almost 200,000 signed petitions in favor of keeping the wolves in Yellowstone.
The argument, held before a three-judge panel in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, stemmed from a December 1997 ruling by a Wyoming federal district court judge that the wolf reintroduction program in Yellowstone and central Idaho is illegal and that all wolves in and around the park must be removed. This ruling, which would most likely result in the deaths of all the wolves, came from a lawsuit filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and others. The judge stayed his own order, pending this appeal.
"Wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone has been the most popular and most environmentally justified endangered species reintroduction effort," said O'Neill, a member of the Defenders' board of directors and lead plantiffs' attorney in the Exxon Valdez lawsuit. "Opposition to wolves in Yellowstone has been extremely mean-spirited. However, once the appeals court has reviewed the law and the reintroduction effort, we are confident that it will permit the wolves to stay. They are the capstone to the Yellowstone ecosystem."
"The more entrenched the Farm Bureau becomes in its opposition to wolf recovery, the more the American people speak out in favor of it," said Tom France, counsel for the National Wildlife Federation and Director of the Northern Rockies Natural Resource Center in Missoula, Mont. "We've collected petitions that we've brought here today from more than 30,000 of our own members and from more than 150,000 Defenders supporters imploring Farm Bureau President Dean Kleckner to reconsider his organization's attack on Yellowstone wolves."
"We've also received hundreds of letters, many of them from Farm Bureau members like Gail Cutler of Bath, Mich., who quit her Farm Bureau membership in protest over what she called its 'assault on America's wolves'," France said.
"Let's not let the Farm Bureau ruin a good thing," said Bob Ferris, species conservation director for Defenders of Wildlife. "The wolves are doing great. They're staying away from livestock except in a few cases where Defenders compensates for any losses. The ecosystem is returning to a more healthy, natural state. Tourism is up and the wolves are adding to the region's economy. Why negate 20-some years of work and lots of money just to start over?" Ferris continued, "We're in this to save the lives of the hundreds of wolves in the park and Central Idaho and to save the taxpayers millions of dollars, as well as to maintain the integrity of this incredibly successful program."
Using the experimental designation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 62 wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996. Experimental designation under section 10(j) of the ESA allows ranchers to shoot wolves if caught in the act of killing livestock on private lands. The 1997 ruling claimed that such designation was illegal and put any naturally occurring wolf populations at undue risk, since a naturally occurring wolf would be fully protected under the ESA. No naturally occurring wolves are in Yellowstone, and any pre-existing wolves in Idaho are flourishing now only because of the tremendous success of the reintroduction program.
If the lower court ruling stands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be charged with physically removing all reintroduced wolves and their offspring from Yellowstone. Canada will not take the wolves back, and territorial issues would preclude such an arrangement regardless. There is not enough zoo space to take even a fraction of the animals, and wild wolves fare poorly in captivity. There is no other appropriate wild space in [the] United States that could handle a population of wolves such as the one in Yellowstone, and translocating the wolves is precarious at best. Therefore, the ruling, if it stands, amounts to nothing short of a death sentence for the wolves.
Defenders Makes Mexican Wolf Compensation Offer
U.S. Newswire, 25 June 1999
Defenders of Wildlife today announced that it will compensate an Arizona rancher for livestock losses from Mexican wolves living in the area. Responding quickly to the confirmed depredation on domestic cattle by the recently released wolves, Defenders pledged to work with the rancher to complete payment of fair market value for his losses.
"Our goal is to achieve wolf recovery, not to make ranchers pay for it," said Defenders President Rodger Schlickeisen. "We are committed to ensuring the return of this critically endangered species to its natural habitat, but at the same time, we're willing to put our money where our mouth is. Defenders will shoulder the burden when these rare incidences occur."
The injured calf in question was discovered by a livestock manager on June 22. The wounds included bites and scrapes consistent with a wolf attack. The calf is expected to recover from the injuries.
This incident occurred in the same area where, a week prior, wolf team biologists discovered the mostly consumed remains of two domestic calves and a partially consumed adult cow that died after its hind leg became tangled in a barbed wire fence. Both coyote and wolf tracks were close by, so a definitive cause of death could not be determined.
Considering the June 22 event and that wolves were spotted in the area the previous week, Defenders will be compensating the rancher for one cow, two calves, and either the vet bills or the value depreciation for the injured calf. In addition, Defenders will pay a neighboring rancher the remaining balance for a calf lost in April, but wolf involvement was not proved. Defenders previously paid 50 percent of the fair market value for that April incident because it was thought to be wolf-caused, but conclusive evidence was lacking.
"We hope our solid record of responsiveness brings what we seek in exchange: tolerance from livestock producers for wolves that do not bother livestock," said Schlickeisen.
All incidents occurred on the T-Link Ranch, about 16 miles north of Clifton, Ariz. -- most likely the result of the Pipestem pack's activities. Currently, an interagency team of biologists is monitoring the Pipestem pack's movements in the Apache National Forest on a 24-hour basis. The pack, released on March 15, 1999, consists of an adult male and female, a yearling female, and some wild-born pups. Biologists will attempt to haze the pack away if additional conflicts occur, and supplemental food is being provided near the den site. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has no immediate plans to move the pack.
"Of particular note here is the rancher's willingness to work with us," said Craig Miller, Defenders' southwest representative. "While this particular rancher does not embrace wolf recovery, he has been willing to participate in the investigation and has been very helpful in the process.
"We regret both the loss of livestock and the inconvenience it has caused and are especially appreciative of the precautions that area ranchers are taking to make stock less vulnerable to predation....Even those who are opposed to reintroduction are cooperating, and Defenders is happy to step up to the plate and accept financial responsibility in these instances."
In addition to paying for verified losses to wolves, Defenders recently formalized a Wolf Country Beef labeling program with two ranches adjacent to the wolf recovery area. Under the program, ranchers agree to allow wolf recolonization to occur on their private lands, to eliminate the use of lethal predator control, and to donate a portion of sales to Defenders' livestock compensation trust. In exchange, their beef products bear an "Authentic Wolf Country" label that identifies products from ranchers who are actively working to assist with the recovery of Mexican wolves. The products typically are sold at a premium, paid for by a public that supports wolf recovery. "The perspective that wolves can only be a liability belongs in the last century," said Miller. "We're creating a future that rewards responsible resource management and at the same time ensures a permanent place for wildlife on the brink of extinction."
Waging War Over Wolves
Valerie Richardson, 11 January 1999
Environmentalists long have been battling with the Farm Bureau about the reintroduction of gray wolves into Yellowstone Park, but unnamed ecoterrorists now are threatening violence.
When ecoterrorists set fire to the Vail ski resort recently, Dave Conover of the American Farm Bureau Federation couldn't help wonder if his organization was next. Since July, the bureau has received at least eight threats to bomb its two-story national headquarters building in suburban Chicago. Behind the letters and phone calls is an unnamed individual or a group of environmental radicals who want the bureau to drop its court challenge to the wolf-recovery program at Yellowstone National Park.
Sparring with the green movement is nothing new for the Farm Bureau, but the threats are "a little scary" says Conover, federation administrator. One letter mentioned top executives by name, while another included a drawing of a limp body -- identified as "Farm Bureau" -- nailed upside-down to a wall. "The implication was death" says Conover. "To be real honest, it was shocking to get something like that."
The bureau has responded by notifying the FBI and enacting basic security measures. Packages no longer may be left at the front desk and only one door is opened during business hours. The threats could be a hoax, but ecoterrorism expert Ron Arnold believes they fit the profile of radical groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, or ALF, and Earth Liberation Front, or ELF.
"The Farm Bureau should take it seriously," says Arnold, author of EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature. "This looks like the terrorists are serious because it's over the wolf issue, and that puts ALF into play." The use of explosives is rare but not unheard of in ecoterrorism. In March 1997, seven ALF activists were arrested after detonating six pipe bombs at a fur-breeding facility in Salt Lake City, destroying several trucks and trailers.
Farm Bureau officials are worried by the parallels to the Vail case. Terrorists with ELF set fire to Vail mountain Oct. 9, shortly after the resort won final approval for an 885-acre expansion that environmentalists said would interfere with critical lynx habitat. "When I heard about Vail, it was of very great concern to us because it was also endangered-species related," says Conover.
The Farm Bureau has been battling with environmentalists over the endangered Canadian gray wolf. Last December, the bureau won a victory when a federal judge ordered the removal of wolves introduced into the United States from Canada. (The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had flown wolves from Canada to Yellowstone by helicopter in 1995 and 1996 as part of an effort to reestablish their numbers in the Rocky Mountains.) Ed Bangs, project leader of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said after the court order that the wolves may have to be shot if Canada won't take them back.
Although environmentalists immediately appealed the ruling, the Farm Bureau didn't receive any threats until seven months later -- following a national ad campaign run last spring by Defenders of Wildlife. Full-page ads in major newspapers on both coasts and in Chicago, emblazoned with the message "Don't Let Them Kill the Yellowstone Wolves" accused the Farm Bureau of moving to destroy 150 wolves. The ad urged supporters to put pressure on the Farm Bureau to "drop its lawsuit against the Yellowstone wolves."
Hank Fischer, Northern Rockies representative of Defenders of Wildlife, condemned the threats. "I guarantee we haven't been exhorting anyone to bomb the Farm Bureau, although we certainly have strong disagreements with them over the wolf reintroduction," says Fischer. "I think what happened at Vail was horribly wrong."